Woodstock festivities kick off at Bethel Woods
Despite the well-publicised difficulties and eventual cancellation of the official Woodstock 50 anniversary event, the 1969 festival will receive its half-century commemoration this weekend, in the form of a four-day series of events at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA).
The events, set on the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival at Bethel Woods, kicked off yesterday (15 August), with Arlo Guthrie taking once again to the Woodstock stage for a free concert.
Originally announcing a full-scale anniversary festival – to have been produced by Live Nation and creative agency Invnt – BWCA later scaled back plans to create the multi-day music and arts programme.
The Bethel Woods site is not the only remnant from the 1969 festival. Woodstock veterans Carlos Santana and John Fogerty are performing over the four days, along with Ringo Starr.
The “pan-generational cultural event” will also feature TED-style talks and “special exhibits”.
“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history”
“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history,” reads a post on the Bethel Woods Twitter page.
It is expected that up to 100,000 visitors will access the area over the four days. Only ticketholders will be permitted on site and all attendees must present a travel pass on entry to avoid overcrowding.
“We’re trying to encourage people that are not interested in the concert-side of things, and just want to come and sort of breathe the air and feel the vibes… to come on other weekends,” Bethel Woods chief executive Darlene Fedun told the Associated Press.
Michael Lang, the organiser of the original ‘three days of peace and music’, had deemed the Bethel Wood site’s capacity too small for his eventually ill-fated anniversary event. Lang pulled the plug on his Woodstock 50 event with just two weeks to go, after the festival lost its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its whole line-up.
Around 400,000 people attended the 1969 festival. A recent report revealed that almost 50% of festivalgoers from the so-called ‘Woodstock Generation’ now suffer from hearing loss, with 70% saying they long to experience music as they did in the past.
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All change for free-to-attend Woodstock 50
Woodstock 50 has been subject to more upheaval over the past few days, moving out of New York state, reportedly releasing all scheduled artists from contracts and making tickets free.
Eighteen days out from the anniversary event, organisers of struggling Woodstock 50 have announced a new venue, 275 miles south of the original site at Watkins Glen.
The festival is now to take place at the 32,000-capacity Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland state, having lost its first venue at Watkins Glen racetrack and later failing to secure a permit for replacement site, Vernon Downs racecourse.
Following the new venue announcement, artists were reportedly released from festival contracts, as the distance from the original site allegedly constituted a contractual breach.
All artist names and line-up information has since been removed from the Woodstock 50 website.
Acts scheduled to perform at Woodstock 50 included Jay-Z, Dead and Company, John Fogerty, the Killers, Miley Cyrus and Santana.
“We’re still waiting to hear who is playing, but [..] they [Woodstock] do still have a venue if they have a show”
“We’re still waiting to hear who is playing, but that’s not our job,” says Seth Hurtwitz, chairman and co-founder of venue operator IMP. “They do still have a venue if they have a show.”
It has also been announced that the event will now be free-to-attend, although remaining ticketed.
“Tickets are for a single day and will be distributed through HeadCount, participating artists’ foundations and local charitable partnerships in DC and Baltimore,” a Woodstock 50 spokesperson told Washington-based publication, WTOP.
Festival organiser Michael Lang has faced difficulties since the event’s primary financier, Amplifi Live, pulled out in April. The event has since lost production partners Superfly and replacement CID Entertainment, as well as its two previous venues.
Woodstock 50 is still scheduled to take place on the original dates from 16 to 18 August, with tickets yet to be distributed.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is to host concerts by Morrisey, the Smashing Pumpkins and Vampire Weekend over the coming weeks. In addition to Merriweather, IMP also operates Washington venues Anthem (6,000-cap.), 9:30 (1,200-cap.) and Lincoln Theatre (1,225-cap.).
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Troubled Woodstock 50 loses another venue
A small town in New York state mooted as the new location for Woodstock 50 has rejected the troubled festival’s request for a permit, saying its application is both too late and incomplete.
The denial, confirmed yesterday by Vernon spokesperson Vincent Rossi, came a day after opponents of the festival packed a town council meeting to voice their concerns about safety and traffic in the rural area, according to the Associated Press.
Rob Maciol, sheriff of Oneida County, which contains Vernon, told the crowd it would be impossible to ensure public safety on such short notice – the festival is due to begin on 16 August – reports the AP.
Organisers are expected to appeal the decision, which they have to right to do within five days.
The Vernon Downs racecourse (pictured) emerged as a potential site for the festival after the original venue, Watkins Glen International, pulled out last month, citing breach of contract.
Organisers have the right to appeal the decision within five days
The future of Woodstock 2019, conceived as a 50th-anniversary celebration of the original Woodstock in 1969 by organiser Michael Lang, has been up in the air since original its financial partner, Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live, pulled out in April. Upon Amplifi’s withdrawal, Dentsu reps declared they had unilaterally cancelled the festival, though a New York judge ruled the following month the event would still be allowed to go ahead.
Lang and partners secured a new financial financial backer, in the form of investment bank Oppenheimer and Co., in May, though Woodstock 50 still lacks the mass-gathering permit from local authorities needed to ahead, and tickets are not yet on sale, with just over a month to go.
More than 80 acts have been booked for the event, including headliners the Killers, Miley Cyrus, Santana, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z and Imagine Dragons.
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Woodstock 50 appeal for funds return denied
Woodstock 50 organisers have little hope of receiving the remaining US$18.5 million in festival funds from the event’s former investor – Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live – after New York judges reject a court appeal.
The appellate court also ordered that the funds, held by the investor’s attorney during the appeal process, be released back to Dentsu.
The appeal followed a court ruling in which a judge rejected demands from the Woodstock 50 team that Amplifi Live redeposit the money in the festival account.
Legal proceedings first began in May, after Amplifi withdrew its support from the event. Upon withdrawal, the investor took the remains of its $49m investment – amounting to $18m – from the festival account, which festival organisers believe ought to be returned to them.
The appeal rejection means organisers will need to look elsewhere for funding. Woodstock 50 attorney Marc Kasowitz wrote in a letter to the court that “restoration of the monies taken by (Dentsu) is necessary for the production of the festival.”
“Woodstock 50 is proceeding with the planning of the festival and looks forward to holding the festival at another venue with its new partners”
The beleaguered anniversary festival has had its share of problems since Amplifi’s initial withdrawal in April.
Earlier this month, the event lost both its venue, the Watkins Glen racetrack in New York state, and its replacement production partner CID Entertainment. Superfly, which was originally supposed to produce the event, pulled out in May.
However, organisers remain optimistic. “Woodstock 50 is proceeding with the planning of the festival and looks forward to holding the festival at another venue with its new partners,” read a statement released by attorney Kasowitz on Friday (21 June).
Vernon Downs, a racing track, casino and entertainment facility in New York state, is one of a few sites being considered as a replacement venue, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Tickets for Woodstock 50, scheduled to take place from 16 to 18 August, are yet to go on sale.
Acts booked to perform include the Killers, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, Imagine Dragons and 1969 performers Santana and Dead and Company.
Woodstock 50 secures new financial partner
The organisers of Woodstock 50 have announced that the festival has found a new financial advisor, in the form of New York-based investment bank and financial services firm Oppenheimer and Co.
The future of Michael Lang’s Woodstock anniversary festival has been shrouded in doubt since Lang lost the event’s original financial partner, Dentsu Aegis’ investment arm Amplifi Live, and its production partner, Superfly. Upon its withdrawal, Dentsu representatives announced the cancellation of the festival.
Event organisers say Oppenheimer will act as a “financial advisor to complete financing for the festival”. It is unclear whether the help from Oppenheimer constitutes the investment of capital or is limited to a purely advisory role.
Oppenheimer’s head of debt capital markets and syndication, John Tonelli, says the firm is “thrilled to be onboard for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement.”
“We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration”
“We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration in the green fields of Watkins Glen this August with all of the artists on the remarkable lineup,” states Tonelli.
Lang has previously stated that an investment totalling “approximately $35m” would be necessary if the festival were to go ahead.
“We look forward to putting on an incredible festival,” says Lang, who co-founded the original Woodstock in 1969. “Words cannot express how appreciative Woodstock 50, the artists, the fans and the community are to Oppenheimer for joining with us to make W50 a reality.”
Lang states that the ticket on-sale, first scheduled for 22 April, will be announced very soon. However, reports suggest that Lang is yet to have secured a mass-gathering permit for the event from the New York State Department of Health.
A court case, in which Woodstock 50 organisers demanded Dentsu return $17.8m to the festival bank account, concluded last week. A judge ruled against the returning of funds, but also rejected the investor’s right to cancel the event.
Woodstock 50 clashes with former investor in court
The first day of legal proceedings between Michael Lang’s Woodstock 50 and former financial partner Dentsu Aegis took place in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court yesterday (Monday 13 May), with a ruling yet to be reached.
Lang, who was not present in court, has hired former Donald Trump attorney Marc E. Kasowitz to put forward his case against Dentsu’s Marc Greenwald, as the former partners hit the courts.
Kasowitz is seeking an emergency injunction to force Dentsu to redeposit the US$18 million it withdrew from the festival account, arguing that the funds are imperative for the event to go ahead.
The sparring match between Woodstock organiser Lang and media conglomerate Dentsu has been ongoing since Denstu’s investment arm, Amplifi Live, pulled the plug on the event on 29 April, announcing its cancellation. Lang rejected the company’s authority to make such a decision and stated the event would go on.
“[Dentsu] secretly decided to abandon, and then sabotage the festival”
In paperwork filed prior to the court hearing, Kasowitz claims the investor “secretly decided to abandon, and then sabotage the festival.” The document states that $6 to $9 million is required if Woodstock 50 is to go ahead.
Although admitting that there remained “significant issues yet to be worked out”, the Woodstock 50 team stated all performers had been paid in full – amounting to $32 million – and the festival was “proceeding apace with planning and implementing key logistics” prior to Denstu’s departure.
Speaking in court, the former Trump attorney emphasised the iconic and unique nature of the anniversary event.
However, a memorandum of law filed by Dentsu that morning reportedly accused Lang of “misrepresentations, incompetence and contractual breaches”, stating that his failings had rendered the production of a high-quality and safe event impossible.
“The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient funding,” writes Greenwald.
Lang had previously declared he planned on securing new investors for the event.
“The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient funding”
“As much as the parties might wish it otherwise, the festival contemplated by their agreement cannot happen and allowing it to go forward would only put the public at risk,” states Greenwald.
Dentsu claims that Lang misrepresented the festival venue’s capacity, which was originally thought to be 150,000, and misled investors to believe that a mass-gathering permit would be secured by the end of 2018.
The media conglomerate states that these stipulations served as the basis for Amplifi Live to set its financial contributions of $49,141,000. Dentsu also claims that Amplifi Live “exclusively controlled” the festival’s financial account.
Such breaches, says Dentsu, allowed the company to terminate its agreement with Woodstock 50.
The court hearing continues today (Tuesday 14 May), to determine where contractual breaches for both parties may lie and decide the fate of Lang’s Woodstock 50.
Woodstock 50: Can the show go on?
In a week that most festival organisers would want to forget, the problems faced by Woodstock 50 appear to be mounting. In addition to having lost its primary investor, the anniversary festival has now lost its production partner, and some reports suggest that artist contracts may be void.
After the event’s investor, Dentsu, withdrew its support on Monday and announced that it was cancelling the event, Woodstock founder Michael Lang voiced his commitment to going ahead with the festival, stating the event would not “be derailed by shortsighted partners” who “don’t have the right to cancel it.”
But according to Billboard, artists’ contracts for the festival were drawn up with Amplifi Live, the holding company controlled by Dentsu. Following Dentsu’s decision to withdraw its support from Woodstock, several agencies are now claiming that those contracts are void.
Yesterday, Woodstock’s production partner – events and marketing specialists Superfly which co-promotes Bonnaroo and Outside Lands – withdraw from the event.
“Following the decision of Dentsu to cancel the event, we [Superfly] will no longer be participating in ongoing related activities.”
“The producers of the Woodstock 50th anniversary festival hired Superfly to leverage our expertise as veteran event producers to manage festival operations, a role that aligned with our mission of creating shared experiences that build community,” says a Superfly spokesperson.
“Throughout our engagement our team provided counsel and recommendation on the necessary elements required to produce a safe and first-class experience. Following the decision of one of our clients, Dentsu, to cancel the event, we will no longer be participating in ongoing related activities.”
Amid the mounting speculation about Woodstock 50’s viability, Lang has now secured the services of trial lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz, who previously represented US president Donald Trump. But he remains officially upbeat about Woodstock still going ahead, telling Pollstar, “None of the artists have pulled out,” and “Everybody’s pulling for us, and it’s kind of inspiring.”
More to no doubt follow…
Updated: Lang denies Woodstock 50 cancellation
Michael Lang, Woodstock 1969 co-founder and the organiser of the Woodstock 50 anniversary event, has said the event will not “be derailed by shortsighted partners”, after its investor announced it was withdrawing support and cancelling the event, as reported by IQ yesterday.
The investor, an arm of Japanese advertising giant Dentsu, released the statement yesterday (Monday 29 April), stating it was cancelling the event.
However, Lang has a different story to tell. The Woodstock 50 organiser says the announcement came as a surprise and states that the investor does “not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival.”
Lang released a detailed statement in which he parallels present difficulties with those experienced when organising the original Woodstock in 1969.
“It seems in a way that history is repeating itself,” writes Lang. “In July of 1969 we lost our site in Walkill and with only a month to go we managed to move to Bethel. Woodstock was going to happen no matter what!
“This time around, Woodstock’s new hometown, Dix & Watkins Glen, NY and New York State have been really wonderful. The venue, Watkins Glen International, have been totally supportive and professional.
“Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public.
“Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it. Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will”
“We have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us.
“Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability are too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners. We continue our work with NYS, Schuyler County and various parties to keep things on track.
“Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it. Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will.
“We don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!
Lang’s statement follows a shorter declaration released by the Woodstock 50 team hours after Dentsu’s announcement, confirming their commitment to holding the festival and their intention to find a new financial partner.
“Although our financial partner is withdrawing, we will of course be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend to bring on new partners.
“The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast,” said the Woodstock team.
“The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast”
Lang also states that all Woodstock 50 acts have already been paid in full, making the event viable if another financial backer is found.
The original Woodstock 50 partner, Dentsu Aegis Network, issued the statement expressing concerns over the viability of the event yesterday (Monday 29 April).
“Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.
“After careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved,” reads the statement.
The statement came after delays to the event’s on sale, scheduled for Monday 22 April, and speculations that organisers had failed to obtain a mass-gathering permit from the New York State Department of Health.
The festival is scheduled to take from August 16 to 18, over the original Woodstock 1969 weekend. The line-up includes Santana, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Jay-Z. The Black Keys recently pulled out of the festival, following “unforeseen scheduling conflicts”.
Anniversary Woodstock 50 event cancelled
Woodstock 50 has been cancelled, following delays to the event’s on sale and speculation that the event had failed to secure a mass-gathering permit.
Officials from Dentsu Aegis Network which is funding the festival released the following statement to Billboard today (initially published by Amplify):
“It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brands and to be associated with meaningful movements. We have a strong history of producing experiences that bring people together around common interests and causes which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival.
“But despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.
“As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”
“Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed”
The organisers of the Woodstock 50 anniversary festival recently spoke out about the delay to the event’s on sale, originally scheduled for Monday 22 April, but denied the event would be cancelled.
Organisers claimed the on sale would remain delayed while they “refined logistical plans” for the event. Organisers urged “patience and support” from the media and the public.
“Ticket on sale information will be available from the Woodstock website in the coming days,” reads the statement.
It is believed that the delays were due to organisers failing to obtain the required mass-gathering permit from the New York State Department of Health (DOH). Applications to receive the permit – obligatory for any event of over 5,000 people – ought to be made at least 15 days before the first day of advertising for the event and at least 45 days before the first day of the gathering.
“Woodstock 50 has delayed its on-sale while we refine logistical plans for what we anticipate will be an amazing festival in August at Watkins Glen, New York”
According to Tim O’Hearn, administrator of Schuyler County, NY, organisers filed the application on April 15, only one week before the scheduled on sale. Although the event was not due to take place until 16 to 18 August – in well over 45 days’ time – Woodstock 50 organiser and co-founder of the original 1969 edition, Michael Lang, officially confirmed Woodstock 50 would take place and began promoting the event in January.
“The health department is reviewing to determine if a conditional permit may be issued that would allow for ticket sales to commence,” says O’Hearn. “At this point there is no on sale date set.”
In response to initial reports that the event was facing difficulties, Lang issued the following statement: “Woodstock is a phenomenon that for fifty years has drawn attention to its principles and also the rumours that can be attached to that attention. Just more rumours.”
IQ has contacted Lang for comment.
Woodstock 50 was scheduled to take place in Watkins Glen, New York. The line-up was to consist of a combination of legacy acts such as Santana, Dead and Company and John Fogerty, alongside contemporary artists including the Killers, Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z.
Official Woodstock 50 anniversary event confirmed
Woodstock 1969’s co-producer and co-founder Michael Lang has announced the comeback of Woodstock Music & Arts Fair to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival. Billed as the only authorised commemoration event, Woodstock 50 will take place from 16 to 18 August 2019 in Watkins Glen, upstate New York.
“It’s time to put the speculation to rest and officially announce that Woodstock 50 is happening,” says Lang.
Woodstock 50 will showcase more than 60 artists across three main stages. Whilst promising mainly contemporary talent, attendees should also expect legacy acts and tribute performances to Woodstock’s most iconic moments.
The festival stays true to Woodstock’s original mission, combining music with social conscience. Nonprofit and cause-driven organisations will present screenings and expert panels to promote sustainability and advocacy. Alternative art forms such as comedy, spoken word and film accompany live music in making Woodstock 50 a varied cultural event.
“It’s time to put the speculation to rest and officially announce that Woodstock 50 is happening”
Lang – who runs Woodstock Ventures, the owner of the Woodstock trademark – made the announcement following the finalisation of plans for a rival Woodstock anniversary event last week. Live Nation-backed Bethel Woods Festival is due to take place over the same weekend on the original festival site in Bethel, New York.
The Woodstock Ventures owner states that he is “delighted” that Bethel Woods continues to hold events celebrating the original 1969 festival.
“The original site in Bethel is wonderful, but much too small for what we’re envisioning,” says Lang. “Watkins Glen International gives us the ability to create something unlike any other commemorative event and something uniquely Woodstock.”
A limited number of tickets for Woodstock 50 go on sale for students aged 18–25 at the end of January. Further details regarding line-up and other on-sale information will be announced in the coming weeks.